BHP Billiton to face grilling from coal-impacted communities at AGM

Wednesday, 22 October, 2014

Representatives from Colombia and Indonesia have arrived in London to tell the BHP Billiton board that coal-mining is detroying communities.

On Thursday morning the board of controversial mining company BHP Billiton will be facing a series of angry community representatives at their AGM who have come to London to describe the impact that coal mining is having in different parts of the world. We're going to be supporting them in a demonstration outside the AGM at 10am at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.

Rogelio Ustate and Francisco Tovar are from communities impacted by the Cerrejón coal mine in the La Guajira region of Colombia. The mine, which is part-owned by BHP Billiton has led to the forced removal of numerous farming communities, almost all of Indigenous or African descent. Pius Ginting is from Friends of the Earth in Indonesia where BHP Billiton is planning a series of massive coal mines in the rainforests of Central Kalimantan. Critics argue that this development would destroy some of the last pockets of primary rainforest on the island of Borneo, deprive Indigenous Peoples of their livelihoods and pollute water sources relied on by up to a million people.

Rogelio said: "“BHP Billiton’s coal mining in Colombia has led to the destruction of the social fabric, the loss of ancestral or traditional medicine, the destruction and disappearance of sacred sites, such as cemeteries, rivers, lakes and springs of living and pure water."

Pius said “We are asking BHP Billiton to reconsider its plan to mine coal in the rainforest of Kalimantan, and to work with the local and national governments to re-establish this area as a protected forest or an indigenous people's forest."

After the AGM, the visitors will be embarking on a nationwide “Dirty Coal Tour” with the first speaking date taking place in London on Thursday evening followed by dates in Norwich, Sheffield, Newcastle, Oxford, Durham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Lanarkshire. The speaking dates are being hosted by student groups campaigning against their universities holding investments in fossil fuel companies. In October Glasgow University became the first UK university to announce divestment from fossil fuel companies.As of 2013 the Glasgow had an £80,000 investment in BHP Billiton as part of its endowment.

Kirsty Wright, the energy justice campaigner from WDM said: “These destructive coal projects show how the corporate control of energy is having devastating impacts on local communities as well as the climate. With a quarter of the UK’s coal being imported from Colombia, we need to ensure that London-listed mining companies like BHP Billiton are not able to trample over the rights of local communities with impunity.” 

Photo: Coal mine in East Kalimantan, Indonesia